Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

Huun-Huur-Tu

  • 60 Horses in My Herd--Old Songs and Tunes of Tuva [Shanachie, 1993] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

60 Horses in My Herd--Old Songs and Tunes of Tuva [Shanachie, 1993]
They tour too much too convince me they're cowboys at heart. They're entertainers--cowboys set on quitting their day jobs. And good at it, too. Where Smithsonian's classic CDs of central Asian throat singing are forbiddingly culture-specific, these will grab world-music dabblers if not alternative stick-in-the-muds. The hook is the technique, in which a single vocalist produces two or three harmonics in perfect unison. But that's just the exotic new sound--it's the mood of the music that makes it more than a dog-and-pony show. Songs and tunes are so allegro they sound thoughtfully devotional even when they aren't, which is usually; the traditional fiddle and percussion accompaniment admits a guitar now and then. We all know about weirdness that fetishizes its own alienation, and most of us need it. Some of us are also cheered and awed by weirdness at home with itself. A-

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1990s]: These stagewise Tuvans tour too much to be cowboys at heart. They're entertainers--cowboys who wish they could quit their day jobs. Around 1993 they ignited a brief vogue for Tuvan throat singing, in which a single vocalist produces two or three harmonics simultaneously. Far more than Smithsonian's culture-specific ethnographic CDs or Shu-De's half-assed RealWorld pop move, Shanachie's 1993 60 Horses in My Herd--Old Songs and Tunes of Tuva is where to sample this exotic sound. Rather than weirdness that fetishizes its own alienation, like yours and mine, this is weirdness at home with itself, a cheerful and awesome thing. Songs and tunes are so slow they sound thoughtfully devotional even when they aren't, which is usually, and traditional fiddle and percussion accompaniment admit a guitar now and then. But it remains so weird that I never developed any sense of their later Shanachie releases. Those who want more should catch their show, which comes with a traveling ethnomusicologist and a shamanistic minidrama featuring animal noises. Or rent the film Tuva Blues, starring folkie bluesman Paul Pena, who taught himself throat singing from records. Or check out Baby Gramps, who learned from Popeye.